One tradition that I have kept alive from my childhood is “feeding the ducks on Christmas”.
My dad has been doing this with me for almost 30 years. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas my dad would take me down to Echo Lake in Barrington to feed the ducks, seagulls and swans. As he would say “They need a Christmas dinner too.” A few old loaves of bread would be their feast and we would spend a good hour feeding them their Christmas dinner.
If it was cold enough and there was ice on the pond, we would laugh as we watched the gulls slide across the ice chasing down slices of bread. I enjoyed this little tradition even as a teen. Hand feeding ducks seems like such a “non-event” but it’s one of those nice memories that have endured all these years.
And now it has been passed on to my son.
Every year we make our way down to a pond or park to feed the birds and this year was no exception.. But we did add a new twist to this old tradition.
After a delicious portuguese-style roast prepared by my mother-in-law, my son and I headed down to Colt State Park to feed the gulls. Our bellies were plump with food so feeding the gulls followed by a little hike always helps with the digestion. We found a large group of seagulls near the boat ramp and got out of the car to present them their Christmas dinner.
We spent a good ten minutes throwing bread to the seagulls. My son loves to throw slices of bread into the air and watch the seagulls catch them in mid-flight. The mob of gulls chasing the lucky catcher is always a welcomed scene. They were getting brave this cold Christmas afternoon and were getting very close to us.
My son laughed and said “it would be cool if they eat from your hand.” As soon as he said that, one landed on the roof of the car right behind me. I presented him a slice of white bread, and to my son’s enjoyment, he snatched it from my hand.
Of course my son then had to feed one by hand.
After a few minutes with his hand in the air and bread waving in the wind, a gull made the attempt. It buzzed down like some fighter jet on an attack run. It missed. Another flew around and lined up for a run. It roared down at what seemed like a hundred miles an hour then hovered for a second and snatched the bread from my son’s hand.
My son yelled out “Did you see that? That was awesome! Let’s do it again.”
So of course we did. He fed two more gulls by hand before we ran out. We finished off the outing with a quick walk and headed back to the in-laws.
Echo Lake has now been replaced with Colt State Park and it’s just seagulls enjoying a Christmas feast, but this thirty year tradition has endured. There will be many more years feeding the birds, taking hikes and enjoying nature on Christmas.